Has student E-mail to professors gone too far?

By Kara Pound

National attention has focused on a growing trend of students E-mailing their professors excessively and with inappropriate content. Faculty at Flagler College agree that this technology has opened a form of communication that does two things — makes them accessible and makes them too accessible.

E-mails inundate their mailboxes and face-to-face meetings have dwindled. Some faculty members express that it is not necessarily the amount they receive, but the tasteless or conversational way that the students write them.

Dr. Helena Särkiö, a professor of communication, receives only about five E-mails per day. She said that the basic questions about course material and assignments are understandable, but other E-mails are not as appropriate.

“Sometimes students write personal issues that I really don’t need to know and that I don’t have any capabilities of helping them with. I’m not a counselor,” she said.

These issues can be about an illness they have or a medication they are on. Särkiö refers them to the school counselors. The inappropriate comments do not stop there. Särkiö said that at least once a semester she gets an E-mail that surprises her.

“They’re really mad (about a grade they got) and they send you the E-mail and they criticize your teaching and in E-mail it always comes off worse than it probably would in person because there’s no body language,” she said.

Särkiö checks her inbox about 20 times per day and finds that juniors and seniors send E-mail more than the younger students.

Students feel that E-mail is a helpful way to communicate with their professors, but some find office hours the most useful. They also believe that E-mail is meant to be informal and should not be taken personally.

Caleb Randall, a junior communication major, estimates that he sends E-mail to his professors every other week to twice a week. He usually asks questions regarding assignments or problems with grades he has received. Randall said he always follows up on the E-mail that he sends, but added that E-mail is meant to be conversational.

“Any E-mail that I send out, it’s not a personal thing,” Randall said.

Jessica Blosil, a sophomore history major, said she has only sent E-mail to her professors a few times, once to let a professor know that she was going to miss a class and the other because she was having a problem with WebCT. Blosil usually goes to see them during office hours.

“I think it’s more effective to go and talk to them to get your point across clearer,” she said.

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